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Physician Assistant Studies classes begin at Elon

With courses set to start this week, master's candidates in the university’s newest graduate program gathered Monday for campus orientation.


Faculty and administrators welcomed to campus on Monday the inaugural class of students in Elon’s Physician Assistant Studies program, the newest addition to the university’s graduate offerings in the field of health care.

Thirty-eight candidates for the degree of Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies spent their day in McKinnon Hall and Belk Library becoming acquainted with their professors, academic tools and resources available to them as students over the next two years. They joined for part of the day with 53 students in the newest class of the university's Doctor of Physical Therapy program.

Among those welcoming students were Elon University President Leo M. Lambert, Provost Steven House, and Elizabeth Rogers, dean of the School of Health Sciences. John Currin, president and CEO of Alamance Regional Medical Center, also took part in the program.

Program leaders said they were excited to now have nearly 200 graduate students active in the School of Health Sciences and that both programs, working together, will make for stronger medical professionals.

“Having a second health sciences program is going to enhance the educational experiences of both groups,” Rogers said. “The more we all know about each other’s personal backgrounds and educations, the better our patients will be served.”

The charter class of 38 physician assistant students represents undergraduate institutions such as UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Connecticut, University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Wake Forest University and Elon University. Students range in age from 20 to 33 and have a variety of health care experiences. Enrolling students come from 10 states including Texas and California.

“They are incredible individuals with exceptional academic preparation and life experience,” said Mark Archambault, the chair and program director for Physician Assistant Studies. “The faculty and staff look forward to enjoying the opportunity to witness their professional maturation rapidly evolve over the next few short years.”

The class of 53 new DPT students represents undergraduate institutions such as UNC-Chapel Hill, Furman University, Loyola University in Maryland, the University of Florida and Elon University. Students range in age from 21 to 45 and come from 15 states.

Both the PA and the DPT programs are based in the Francis Center on East Haggard Avenue about a mile from the heart of campus.

The Francis Center features three classrooms dedicated to the DPT program and two classrooms for the physician assistant program, with three clinical laboratories, five simulation/exam rooms and two observation rooms, an anatomy lab, a biomechanics lab, a human performance lab, an ultrasound lab, a neuroscience lab, an anthropometry lab, an electrophysiology lab, a metabolic lab and an osteology lab.

New teaching and research equipment includes a second Biodex system for campus, a Qualisys gait analysis and rehabilitation system, which includes 12 cameras and a 16-channel wireless EMG system, plus two force plates; and a Robomedica system. The first floor of the building also includes a large commons area, student lounge and fitness facility.

Students in the program said the mood on Monday afternoon was one of excitement sprinkled with anxiety. Their reasons for pursuing a career in the medical field were as varied as their backgrounds.

“I’ve always been interested in health care and like the diversity of possibilities that physician assistant studies offers,” said Keri Norris, a 2001 graduate of Appalachian State University who studied exercise science. “And I’m from a smaller town, which is why I like community here.”

Tyler Roper, who graduated with a degree in biology from UNC-Wilmington, said he looks forward to filling a critical statewide need in the years ahead.

“There’s a gap in the need for primary care professionals here in North Carolina,” he said.


Eric Townsend,
2/15/2013 11:55 AM